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sought leave to take his place. Bunyan consented. His companion went to Leicester, and, standing sentry, was shot through the head, and died. These interpositions made no impression on him at the time.
He married very early: “And my mercy was to light upon a wife whose father was counted godly. This woman and I, though we came together as poor as poor might be--not haying so much household stuff as a dish or spoon betwixt us, yet this she had for her portion, "The Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven,' and 'The Practice of Piety,' which her father had left her when he died. In these two books I would sometimes read with her; wherein I also found some things that were somewhat pleasing to me. She also would be often telling of me what a godly man her father was, and what a strict and holy life he lived in his days, both in word and deeds. Wherefore these books, with the relation, though they did not reach my heart to awaken it about my soul and sinful state, yet they did beget within me some desires to reform my vicious life, and fall in very eagerly with the religion of the times—to wit, to go to church twice a-day, and that, too, with the foremost; and there should very devoutly both say and sing as others did, yet retaining my wicked life. But, withal, I was so overrun with the spirit of superstition, that I adored, and that with great devotion, even all things—the high-place, priest, clerk, vestment, service, and what else belonging to the Church; counting all things holy that were therein contained, and especially the priest and clerk, most happy, and, without doubt, greatly blessed, because they were the servants, as I then thought, of God, and were principal in the temple to do His work therein."
So strong was this superstitious feeling, that “had he but seen a priest, though never so sordid and debauched in his life, his spirit would fall under him; and he could have lain down at his feet and been trampled upon by him-his name, his
garb, and work, did so intoxicate and bewitch him. It little matters what form superstition takes-image-worship, priest-worship, or temple-worship; nothing is transforming except Christ in the heart, a Saviour realised, accepted, and enthroned. Whilst adoring the altar, worshipping the surplice, and idolising its wearer, Bunyan continued to curse and blaspheme, and spend his Sabbaths in the same riot as before.
One day, however, he heard a sermon on the sin of Sabbathbreaking. It fell heavy on his conscience; for it seemed all intended for him. It haunted him throughout the day, and when he went to his usual diversion in the afternoon, its cadence was still knelling in his troubled ear. He was busy at a game called “Cat,” and had already struck the ball one blow, and was about to deal another, when "a voice darted from heaven into his soul, “Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven, or have thy sins and go to hell?"" His arm was arrested, and looking up to heaven, it seemed as if the Lord Jesus was looking down upon him in remonstrance and severe displeasure; and, at the same instant, the conviction flashed across him, that he had sinned so long that repentance was now too late. “My state is surely miserable-miserable if I leave my sins, and but miserable if I follow them. I can but be damned; and if I must be so, I had as good be damned for many sins as few.” In the desperation of this awful conclusion he resumed the game; and so persuaded was he that heaven was for ever forfeited, that for some time after he made it his deliberate policy to enjoy the pleasures of sin as rapidly and intensely as possible.
To understand the foregoing incident, and some which may follow, the reader must remember that Bunyan was made up of vivid fancy and vehement emotion. In no case was his belief a mere assent; he always felt and saw. And he could do nothing by halves. He threw a whole heart into his love and his hatred; and when he rejoiced or trembled, the entire man and every movement were converted into ecstasy or horror. Many have experienced the dim counterpart of such processes as we are now describing; but will scarcely recognise their own equivalent history in the bright realisations and agonising vicissitudes of a mind so fervent and ideal.
For a month or more he went on in resolute sinning, only grudging that he could not get such scope as the madness of despair solicited, when one day, standing at a neighbour's window, cursing and swearing, and playing the madman after his wonted manner," the woman of the house protested that he made her tremble, and that truly he was the ungodliest fellow for swearing that she ever heard in all her life, and quite enough to ruin the youth of the whole town. The woman was herself a notoriously worthless character; and so severe a reproof, from so strange a quarter, had a singular effect on Bunyan's mind. He was in a moment silenced. He blushed before the God of heaven; and as he there stood with hanging head, he wished with all his heart that he were a little child again, that his father might teach him to speak without profanity ; for he thought it so inveterate now, that reformation was out of the question. Nevertheless, so it was, from that instant onward he was cured of his wicked habit, and people wondered at the change.
"Quickly after this I fell into company with one poor man that made profession of religion, who, as I then thought, did talk pleasantly of the Scriptures, and of the matter of religion. Wherefore, falling into some love and liking of what he said, I betook me to my Bible, and began to take great pleasure in reading, but especially with the historical part thereof; for as for Paul's Epistles, and such like Scripture, I could not away with them, being as yet ignorant either of the corruption of my nature, or of the want and worth of Jesus Christ to save me. Wherefore I fell into some outward reformation, both in my
words and life, and did set the commandments before me for my way to heaven, which commandments I also did strive to keep, and, as I thought, did keep them pretty well sometimes, and then I should have comfort; yet now and then should break one, and so afflict my conscience; but then I should repent, and say I was sorry for it, and promise God to do better next time, and there got help again; for then I thought I pleased God as well as any man in England. Thus I continued about a year, all which time our neighbours did take me to be a very godly man-a new and religious man—and did marvel much to see such great and famous alteration in my
life and manners; and indeed so it was, though I knew not Christ, nor grace, nor faith, nor hope; for, as I have well since seen, had I then died, my state had been most 'fearful. But, I say, my neighbours were amazed at this my great conversion from prodigious profaneness to something like a moral life; and so they well might, for this my conversion was as great as for Tom of Bedlam to become a sober man. Now, therefore, they began to speak well of me, both before my face and behind
Now I was, as they said, become godly—now I was become a right honest man. But, oh, when I understood these were their words and opinions of me, it pleased me mighty well.
For though, as yet, I was nothing but a poor painted hypocrite, yet I loved to be talked of as one that was truly godly. . . . And thus I continued for about a twelvemonth or more.”
Though not acting from enlightened motives, Bunyan was now under the guidance of new influences. For just as the Spirit of God puts forth a restraining influence on many during the days of their carnality, which makes the change at their conversion less conspicuous than if they had been lifted from the depths of a flagitious reprobacy; so others He long subjects to a preparatory process, during which some of the old and most offensive things of their ungodliness pass away; and
when the revolution, effected by the entrance of the evangelic motive, at last takes place, it is to personal consciousness rather than to outward observation that the change is perceptible. The real and final transformation is more within the man than
So was it with John Bunyan. One by one he abandoned his besetting sins, and made many concessions to conscience, while as yet he had not yielded his heart to the Saviour. It was slowly and regretfully, however, that he severed the “right hand." One of his principal amusements was one which he could not comfortably continue. It was bell-ringing, or the merry peals with which the villagers used to divert themselves on the Sunday afternoons. It was only by degrees that he was able to abandon this favourite pastime. “ What if one of the bells should fall ? ” To provide against this contingency, he took his stand under a beam fastened across the tower. “But what if the falling bell should rebound from one of the side walls, and hit me after all ?" This thought sent him down stairs, and made him take his station, rope in hand, at the steeple door. “ But what if the steeple itself should come down?” This thought banished him altogether, and he bade adieu to bell-ringing. And by a similar series of concessions, eventually, but with longer delay, he gave up another practice, for which his conscience checked him -dancing. All these improvements in his conduct were a source of much complacency to himself, though all this while he wanted the soul-emancipating and sin-subduing knowledge of Jesus Christ. The Son had not made him free.
There is such a thing as cant. It is possible for flippant pretenders to acquire a peculiar phraseology, and use it with a painful dexterity; and it is also possible for genuine Christians to subside into a state of mind so listless or secular, that their talk on religious topics will have the inane and heartless sound of the tinkling cymbal. But as there is an experimental religion, so is it possible for those who have felt religion in its